Abstract of Character Development
The development of character is the foundation of a person’s trek through life. It’s primary location for promulgation is in the home. The home rightly understands character from the image of God, the model for all existence. At the beginning of the family is the marriage, where the civil government structure structure is formed as a shared limited aristocracy. Right character development is in the methods used, and they come by the belief systems that are held by the parents, counselors, and mentors. Conscience is innately in a person by God’s design, but much of it’s function must be externally developed. Once the conscience is established, the character is sure to follow. And as a result of individuals with strong character, the family structure, and ultimately the society composed of the families will follow suit.
Kingdom Society Research
January 25, 2014
Character Development: What is Character’s place in society?
“Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.
Pro 23:12 (ESV)
There is a modern trend of word usage that is unfortunate. It could be what Webster had meant when he said that two or three centuries see’s great changes in language.i Character has been referred to by many as something to be had, as is the case with “moral’s”. Morality is generally defined as the discernment of right and wrong. Ethics, on the other hand, is the humanistic principles governing a person’s behavior. “A moral action is to act in accordance with the moral light of truth residing in the intelligence, or to act contrary to it.” (Allen, pp. 10) While both could be said to govern, ethics have no root or foundation, while Morality does. Morality deals with virtues, with are static, and unchanged. Ethics postulates values, which are dynamic, and “situational”. Clearly, character development happens at a young age, as a person’s lifestyle is framed out of this construct. “…the intelligence must be in possession of intellectual comprehension of truth and understanding to give direction to what choices ought to be made.” (Allen, pp. 9)
There should be a distinction made between Personality, and character. Personality, having a base word of “person”, implies personhood. The crowning example of person would be found in Jesus Christ. Three elements uniquely define the person from any other creature: Mind, Will, and Emotion. They define the ability to reason, to originate action by decision, and experience impressing and expressing output of emotion. Seven are recognized as universal: Anger, Sadness, Fear, Contempt, Disgust, Happiness, and Surprise. (Lamb)ii As personality would suggest, character development happens only by external influence. At earlier stages, it is done through more coercive means, while in older stages of life, the developmental influence happens more through insights appealing to reason.
THE FAMILY UNIT
The family unit could be illustrated well by a parallel with the picture of the Godhead in Judeo-Christian Scripture. God is understood mysteriously as three person’s, and yet one singular God. Scripture does not hide the fact of multiple relational persons present, as in Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7 God uses the expression “us”, ironically communicating with Himself. In the New Testament, John 1:1-2 mention “the Word” (which is accepted by many commentators to mean Jesus) as being “with God”. Jesus says in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one”. A little later, in John 16:7; 13-15, Jesus speaks of “the Spirit of Truth”. By these, we can see the makings of the marriage of the Holy Trinity of God. Interacting perfectly.
Much in the same way, the husband and wife relationship are to “…become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:8). The relationship of two individuals is morally changed. There is an intimate bond that happens when these two unite together. There is said to be a covenant made. It is a moral bond, but it is deeper then romance. It is a union made before God. It is here that a new social unit in society begins. The nature of the family is in the moral bond. Our nature as humans in the image of God is to form social units, and they are at a deep, moral level. The Head of the family is designated in the father, as the laws of the nature of God flow down into humanity, the Father God, is the parallel with the husband in the Earthly family unit. The family is then compete in this equal union.
The intimate relationship of the marriage literally produces the offspring of children into the family. Rosalie J. Slater, in Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History, makes this statement: “The child is the moral reproduction of the parent.” (Slater, pp. 30) Definition of the family through stipulations by the vows or requests made by the husband and/or spouse produce a family-wide civil government, that only begins to see it’s real application with subordinates under the authority figures of the parent figures. Gary Ezzo, in Growing Kid’s God’s Way, says: “…when children enter their family, they enter an already established social structure.” (Ezzo, pp. 31)iii Love horizontally in the marriage results in a new creation vertically, expanding the family unit. From birth, the child is a product of relationship. The child in the new family is in a unique position in the family however. Having not voluntarily chosen to be brought into the family, the parents are responsible for the first couple of years in the child’s life of much of the child’s external action. Though the child cannot act out in large, obvious movements, the evidence of an individual will is seen in the child. Modern sonograms identify even in the womb, the developing child decides his own movements, positions, etc.
It is vital that a distinction be made between character, and nature. “[Moral Character] …is what we are doing with our endowments or abilities of personality and the moral understanding which we possess.” (Allen, pp. 9) It is the external output of our intrinsic essence, or put in another way, what we do with who we are. Nature, on the other hand, is our very elements of our essence. It is the raw form that we begin from. Such being the case, it should be suggested here that nature cannot be altered (except it’s Creator), while character is alterable. In illustrating this, the United States Constitution articulates the format for changing laws in the United States of America. While laws are “amendable”, the process is intentionally arduous. Thus, the character can be reprogrammed later in a person’s life if necessary, but the process is difficult, and not ideal.
The Construct of the character (as all things in God), have has a logical base. While some moral concepts are beyond man’s ability to presently understand (Trinity), virtues in the character are specific elements determined of the character. In identifying the ideal attributes of character in the individual, it is wise to look to a perspective of the Creator’s attributes of character. “Virtues do not change, because the source of virtues is God not man.” (Ezzo, pp. 19) Morality must have an absolute root back to Truth. “Truth is the correct description of reality.” (Allen, pp. 17) Truth is solid and secure. Truth must be understood, it must be “comprehended”. (Allen, pp. 9)
The first factor that is to be forged that will guide the moral actions of an individual is the Conscience. Gary Ezzo says this, “The destiny of a child’s life is shaped by his conscience” (Ezzo, pp. 73). Conscience is first in line to direction the character, as character is first in line to direct the person. There are two levels in the Conscience, according the Mr. Ezzo: Lower and Higher Conscience. The Lower Conscience, he concludes, is innately present from birth, and is shared university by all humanity. By it, a concept of right and wrong is known. The Higher Conscience, he say’s, is “the moral warehouse” – a storage facility that specific virtues must be instilled. Having no specific virtues will leave one with confusion, knowing of a right and wrong, but not knowing what fit’s into either category. Values conversely, would be postulated qualities that hold value, as is the case with paper currency in a society. They do not have innate, tangible substance, but rather, are representations of a deeper foundation that does.
The specific installation of virtues into man’s character ideally, is left to man. The parents of the home are given this privilege. Rosalie J. Slater makes a sobering statement of the obedience of the child to his parents: “Honor thy father and thy mother, is a command which explodes such a gaudy theory; and he who does not obey it, brutalizes human nature, dishonors God, subverts the principles of constitutional society, throws off allegiance to the prerogatives of a divinely constituted superior, and overthrows both church and state.” (Slater, pp. 24)
In the context of humanity, obedience is the first principle present. As the great and extravagant gift of free will was given to man at his conception, obeying the laws of reality is left up to man’s decision. Seven principles are presented here that originate in the character of God. They are: Love, Justice, Mercy, Truth, Faithfulness/Integrity, Wisdom, and Holiness/Purity. Love is the beginning, the solid foundation, which is stated in Scripture as so rudimentary and foundational of God – that it is an undisputed fact to any who know the God of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. “God is Love” (1 John 4:8, 16) As all moral actions, It is a choice. “Love is an attitude of will; it is the choice to bestow kindnesses upon others according to perfect intelligence of what is right and proper.” (Allen, pp. 10) Love is naturally relational, with a deep fundamentally unconditional element at it’s core. Love is relentless. To consider the plethora of instances the term in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures – is to identify a basic law of God as gravity is a basic law of physics. Love is the foundational virtue that all the other virtues root from.
Justice is the virtue that hold’s laws as binding, and to “…restrain those actions that hurt and destroy the highest good of mankind”. (Allen, pp. 13) It’s job is to restrain, out of a necessity of love. With a restraint in place at gates, the kingdom is has only the circulation of noble, elegant, wonderful, and good things. Justice is necessary only as the capacity for evil is present (which will always be, as free will always is.) Mercy is Justice’ sister, pardoning transgressions where they ought to be met with consequential verdict. It releases the perpetrator on grounds that the value of the person transcends their act, and recovery is worth the risk of recoil. Mercy and Grace must be distinguished. Mercy ‘not receiving what one does deserve’, and Grace ‘is receiving what one doesn’t deserve.’
Truth is the plumb line of the character, framing unchanging laws of reality as absolute and the de-facto standard. Honesty is a result of this, but should not be exalted too lavishly, as honesty only exposes what should never have been hidden. Truth holds all virtues to the highest standard. Faithfulness, or Integrity is the attribute of steadfastness. If Truth is the correct description of reality, then Deception is the incorrect description of reality. It’s the commitment to remain devoted no matter what influence, or obstacle arises in it’s path. “Faithfulness tells us that God, in His essential moral character, always has been Love, is Love, and always will be Love” (Allen, pg. 17) Truth is perfectly understand directly from it’s source. Character formation by model of God’s character is a sure-fire success with splendid encore as it’s resulting consequence of presence in a person. All of the attributes could be considered vehicles of love. It never stops, but always pursues.
Wisdom is the attribute that organizes actions intelligently be benevolence. “Wisdom is intelligence and knowledge put to work by love to produce what is good and useful…” (Allen, pp. 12) In the case of God, wisdom is more powerful then in man, as He is all-knowing, with all *knowable* knowledge in His arsenal. Scripture refers to Wisdom extensively in association with such ideas as: understanding, and knowledge. The Fear of The LORD is connected by Job 28:28, Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; and in 15:33. A vast grasp of wisdom can be found in the words of the Proverbs. Wisdom then directs the use of that knowledge into the greatest possible benefit. Wisdom is the method of applying knowledge, using it only in a pejorative context. Deceit may be considered the polar, logical opposite of wisdom – using knowledge for ill will and evil intentions. If Wisdom is using knowledge and understanding in the best possible way, then Deceit is the worst possible way to use knowledge and understanding, with a likewise opposite result of destruction rather then construction. Finally, Holiness is the absolute finest, the perfection of God, being held to the expectation of Himself alone. Holiness is the all-encompassing word to express the fullness of love, intelligence, attitudes, actions, and serenity of perfect relationship.” (Allen, pp. 18) With God, relationship is framed in every definition. Holiness holds all of the character elements in cohesion together. While Truth grounds them to an absolute, objective standard, Holiness unites them all together in a thriving, intimate unit. God’s movement began existence. In the case of man, the Conscience (pre-programmed by God) upholds a relay back to God. It defines perpetually what right and wrong is. Holiness is incorrectly defined as purity, as in God – no sin has ever existed, and yet He holds this attributes honorably. Purity, like honesty, is theoretically a given in the nature of things. Purity, (or the absence of sin) was the model of man at his creation.
His being defines what is. These character attributes are the consequential result of what had already happened. I heard once in a lecture that “words get their meaning from the company they keep”, (Micah Sewell). Laws find their recorded definition after they have functioned first. If the character is forged with the conscience be in place, then how is the higher level of conscience given it’s virtues? Being entirely of moral composition, an atmosphere of moral growth is necessary to install these deep components into place. The education of God is found in the church (body of Christ). More specifically, it is found in the textbook of the Judeo-Christian, and the meditation on it. Much of the content of Judeo-Christian Scripture is conveyed in story form.
As a community is simply made up of individuals, the internal elements are crucial in forming the larger, moral fabric of the society. What happens at an individual level, spreads by communication, vocal or not, because men are relational by nature. Though ethics point to an acetic, pious theorized utopia among men, morality points to Truth that is absolute. Morality gives depth is mere ethics. Morality points to God. It points to something beyond our full grasp. It gives meaning to the elements that formed our methods of science. Character then is an outward expression what has been installed internally. It produces an extrapolation of the direct instrument of measurement given by God to man in the conscience. Character can then have any number of attributes present, and within the attributes, any level of quality to them. The Will in the individual’s personality determines the level of quality will be in each of his character attributes.
As the individual gets older though, and a character is formed and solidified, it’s reprogramming will become more difficult, because beliefs, habits, have turned a theoretical character system into an efficient, autonomous organism. Reforming a developed conscience begins at belief systems, as these define how a person will act. Belief systems determine whether absolute Truth is real, or a myth, leaving instead rather a relative conception of reality. Subjective truth leaves one in great confusion. The free will of an individual allows for him to choose his own destiny, but if absolute Truth exists, and order is defined in the universe, then aligning with Truth is vital for clarity and peace of mind, if not for purpose and significance in life.
iNoah Webster, United States Founding Father, Revolutionary War Soldier, “The Holy Bible . . . With Amendments of the Language”, (New Haven: Durrie & Peck, 1833), p. iii.
iiLamb, Jennifer. “Emotion.” Www.epchs.k12.il.us. East Peoria Highschool, 2012-2013. Web. 01 Jan. 2014. <http://www.epchs.k12.il.us/faculty/LAMBJEN/Chapter5/emotion.pdf>.
iiiEzzo, Gary, and Anne Marie. Ezzo. Growing Kids God’s Way: Reaching the Heart of Your Child with a God-centered Purpose, along the Virtuous Way. 5th ed. Louisiana, MO: Growing Families International, 2007. Print.